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Thursday, 1 October 2015

Amazing claims

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt showing two little smiling cutout figures is an advertisement for something called Wampole's Preparation, which I've never heard of. A few weeks ago, when I found my great aunt Flora Forbes mentioned as a prizewinner in an advertisement for Aulsebrooks Cocoa published in the Press of 30 April 1900, I also noticed on the same page the following advertisement for the wonderful Loasby's Wahoo, which appears to have been another weird concoction that was advertised as a cure for a wide variety of disorders. Here it is:

Loasby's Wahoo, Advertisement from The Press, 30 April 1900, per Paperspast web site

Loasby's Wahoo - hardly what I would call a catchy name for a product - was produced by Loasby's "Wahoo" Manufacturing Co in Dunedin NZ. It was widely advertised in many New Zealand newspapers from the late 19th century onwards, often with glowing testimonials and recommendations from happy customers such as William Timms from Dunedin, Mr Morley of New Plymouth, Mr Chalk of Napier,or Mr Macansh of Murrumburrah NSW, as referred to in the following advertisements, just to select a few at random. 


Clarence and Richmond Advertiser, 14 September 1897, per Trove web site

This next item from the National Library of NZ shows some of the other "cure-all" type products made by Loasby's Wahoo Manufacturing Co. Ltd. The trademark snail at the top has the words "always at home" on its back, presumably signifying that the products are always available when you want them, because prescriptions can be dispensed at all hours day or night.

Cleveland, Francis Leslie, 1921-2014. Loasby's "Wahoo" Manufacturing Co., Ltd. :... Loasby's "Wahoo" embrocation is a sovereign remedy ... "Snail Brand" irish moss, quinine & steel wine, emulsion of cod liver oil ... ca 1895.. Ref: Eph-C-PHARMACY-1895-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Of course it's possible that some of my New Zealand ancestors may have actually used Loasby's Wahoo or other products, in particular my Hickey family, who lived in Dunedin and were probably familiar with the premises there in King St where chemist Andrew Mcartney Loasby produced his range of medications, but I discovered a more precise family connection when I noticed the name of the wholesale agents in the third advertisement. My great grandfather Thomas Byles arrived in NZ in the late 1870s and was taken on as a young apprentice by Kempthorne Prosser NZ Drug Co Ltd in its Wellington warehouse. By the time he retired many years later he had worked himself up to the position of chief foreman.

                                   Thomas Byles 1863-1951

Lambton Quay, Wellington, with the New Zealand Drug Company building. Tyree Studio :Negatives of Nelson and Marlborough districts. Ref: 10x8-0961-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Pictured above are the quayside premises of Kempthorne Prosser, c 1880s, where Thomas Byles was employed. Quite likely his duties there would have included receiving shipments of Loasby's Wahoo and other products on a daily basis and distributing them to numerous chemists around Wellington, where desperate customers were no doubt lining up for their supplies. Thomas enjoyed a long life, but sadly Loasby's Wahoo couldn't prevent his eldest daughter Ellen dying in 1920 at the age of 29, nor save his wife Mary Ann not long afterwards when she passed away aged 54  in 1924.

An invoice from Kempthorne Prosser, such as Thomas Byles would have regularly handled in the course of his daily duties. Photo from Wikipedia, 

The company has an interesting history, with its headquarters also being located in Dunedin. Considered to have been the largest drug and fertilizer manufacturer in NZ, it operated from 1869 until 1978. Hopefully the fertilizers were stored separately from the drugs. One of its original founders Evan Prosser established a branch in Sydney New South Wales but committed suicide on Sydney's North Shore in 1896 after attempting to murder his wife.

I found a photograph here on line of what a clean bottle of Loasby's Wahoo looked like and apparently it was about 5 inches high, with the words Loasby's Wahoo embossed down both edges. Some years ago when digging in the garden of our house named Wirreandah that was built in 1910, (see header photograph) we found this little bottle buried there. There's no longer any label, but perhaps it once contained some wonder preparation of a similar kind to Loasby's Wahoo, swallowed hopefully by a past occupant. The only embossed mark on the bottom of the bottle is P2. It's tiny really, only 60mm or less than 2.5 inches high, so whatever it was, not much was considered necessary to effect a cure. A little goes a long way?

For more prompt relief from what ails you, just call in on Sepia Saturday #299 , Open all hours!

Mike Brubaker's comment prompted me to look for information on the meaning of Wahoo, which turns out to be a drug that has digestive properties, and appears to come from the bark of an American plant by the same name. Mr Loasby brought a court action against another chemist who had also called his rival product Wahoo. Loasby had to admit in court that in fact his product did not contain any Wahoo, whereas the defendant's product actually did. Consequently Loasby lost the case. It certainly makes me wonder about the veracity of all those testimonials.

Mr Dutton subsequently placed advertisements publicising his success in the case, and threatening that vendors selling a false article would be proceeded against, but it appears that Loasby's 'wahooless' "Wahoo" continued to be produced.

Timaru Herald, 7 March 1898, per Paperspast web site.

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